Stop judging other parents

159144_8795-parentsOne controversial blog I read occasionally is called FreeRangeKids.

The basic idea here, posed by mother-turned-activist Lenore Skenazy, is that our kids already know what they’re doing. And if they don’t, it’s up to them to figure things out.

Want your child to learn how to cook for himself? Then ya gotta let him burn his hands on the frying pan a time or two. Want your kid to be creative enough to play on her own and make up games with sticks? Then you have to cancel some of the fifty-seven extracurricular lessons you’ve scheduled for her and give her time to just wander in the yard without a plan.

I agree with this, in theory. Sometimes only in theory.

About half of the time, I think the advice is dead on the nose.
The rest of the time, the site just pisses me off.

That’s probably why I go; adrenaline is a great thing to get you going in the morning when you don’t really want to do the laundry yet.

Regardless of why I do this to myself, most of the posts I’ve read from her have sent me into a tizzy in one direction or the other, either wanting to stick up for those who are accused of being overprotective, or reading comments by those who want to lynch them.

Today’s post, written by someone other than Lenore, fits into the writing scheme of things, and angers me on a certain level.

The full post is here, but here’s the gist:

Wait a minute: Are those flashcards in that mom’s hands? At a baseball game? Yes. Yes, they are. She’s holding them up to test her preschooler on her letters and numbers – on a Friday night at Little League.

Meanwhile, your kids are playing under the bleachers. Something about a princess and a fire truck and magical cookies…you have no idea what they’re saying. All you know for sure is that your kids are having fun, while the little girl with the flashcards is working on mom-imposed homework and a nervous breakdown before she’s 12.

Here’s my take, and what I wrote in the comment trail:

I’m sure somebody will be quick to call me a liar, but…

I was reading at a third-grade level when I was three. I skipped kindergarten, and I LOVED school. Never fell behind, never hated it, never stopped wanting to find out more things and dig into more subjects. (Except math, LOL, but that’s another whole post…)

My mom used two methods to teach reading to my sister and me. She’d read to us constantly, and use her finger to follow the words along as she went. It wasn’t long before we were reading them to her, and then writing our own stories (the earliest one I’ve found a copy of was a snowman saga I wrote when I was four.)

The other method was, you guessed it, flashcards.

She made her own on little index cards (this was the 70s, so it wasn’t exactly a hot topic yet), and used words for things that we knew; Mommy, Daddy, toes, cat, door, hot, Barbie doll, shoes, etc.

She never “pushed us to achieve” or forced us to sit down and do them; it was just a game that we both liked and it made my sister and I feel like grownups. All kids like that feeling; hell, that’s why most of us first try drinking coffee.

She just did it as a game, and we demanded to play it all the time. Pretty soon, I was reading my favorite store signs, snack food logos, and toy commercials. She’d stick those little suckers right into the flashcard mix, and I got to yell “PEPSI!” and “KMART!” and throw my hands up and run around the room laughing hysterically.

Wasn’t torture, I’m afraid.

Granted; that depends on the kid. For my sister and I, reading was a cool game, and it stuck. I’m a professional writer and book editor, she’s a 24-year-old with a Master’s Degree who works as a children’s librarian in a major city.

I don’t remember learning to read at all; it’s just always been my favorite hobby and something that came naturally.

I get that we’re all against the soccer-mom hovering types who are forcing this stuff down their kids’ throats and obsessing over Yale scores at 14 months… no argument there whatsoever.

But could we also entertain the idea that maybe, just maybe, that kid at the Little League game was one of my breed, and that’s the ONLY way the parents could keep the child busy enough to sit through the game without driving everyone else in the bleachers NUTS?

Part of the key to the Free-Range problem in the first place is that good moms and dads are paranoid about the faceless mass of OTHER parents who are lurking in the shadows, waiting to judge every parental decision they make.

Our doing it in reverse doesn’t make us any better.

So, maybe I’m a little too defensive above, but I’m curious…

I have writer and reader friends through here from time to time.

What do you guys think?

How did you learn to love words–was it because or in spite of your parents? Or maybe through an unrelated event or conversation?


(Image credit.)

4 Responses to “Stop judging other parents”

  1. Jenny says:

    Dearest sister,
    I agree with you on all points….EXCEPT, I'm 26. 🙂

  2. Tracy Lucas says:


    Me – you = Four Years, and I got it wrong.

    Well, I SAID I wasn't any good at math!


  3. judy says:

    Okay, so this is totally beside your point (as I am prone to be… beside the point), but here's what I love about your comment. I was, at first, totally on the side of the original poster because, of course, I'm no soccer-mom-yale-scores-over-schedule-my-kids-until-we're-both-insane kind of mom, but then…

    You comment reminded me how quick we are to judge a scene from our limited perspective. We have to, our own perspective is all we come armed with, but it didn't even occur to me that there would be a little kid who WANTED to do the flash cards. (I was that little kid. Why wouldn't that occur to me?)

    So, I'm liking the reminder to, rather than be judgmental, consider other explanations for things that piss me off. As a writer, that's good for me anyway. Exercises the imaginative muscles.

  4. Tracy Lucas says:

    I love your comment, Judy. And I think we're the same breed of in/sanity on most counts. (I like that, too!)

    There are a world of things that piss me off, too… probably too many, if I'm being honest.

    Here's to devil's advocacy.

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